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D-backs’ Koch outpitched by Scherzer, Arizona loses third straight

Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Matt Koch throws during the first inning of the team's baseball game against the Washington Nationals, Friday, May 11, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

PHOENIX, Ariz. — Not sure what Matt Koch did to upset the baseball gods but for the third consecutive start the 28-year-old right-hander faced a former Cy Young Award winner, becoming the first pitcher in Arizona Diamondbacks history to go through such a stretch.

The good news is for the third consecutive start Koch held his own, and then some.

It’s just unfortunate his teammates didn’t have his back on Friday.

Koch pitched well enough to win, and on most nights he would have, but Max Scherzer was just a little bit better.

Scherzer struck out 11 over seven innings to help lead the Washington Nationals to their second straight win in the four-game series, 3-1, in front of an announced crowd of 22,901 at Chase Field.

The D-backs managed just four hits off Scherzer, who after allowing a David Peralta third-inning solo home run, retired the final 15 batters faced.

He won his sixth straight decision to improve to 7-1.

Meanwhile, Koch (2-1) was dealt a tough-luck loss.

The Nationals tagged him for a pair of solo home runs — Trea Turner and Anthony Rendon — plus an RBI single from Scherzer in what would be a career-high eight-inning outing, following matchups against Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander in his previous two starts.

Koch walked one and struck out three.

The D-backs have lost a season-high tying three straight and six of nine overall.

THE GOOD

A single in the first and a home run in the third inning, Peralta reached base safely in each of his first two plate appearances. The home run was his seventh of the season and second in his career off Scherzer, who was unsuccessful throwing a 1-1 curve. Peralta deposited the baseball over the fence in right field, tying the game at 1.

With a taxed bullpen, Koch went out and gave the D-backs exactly what they needed: Innings. A career-high eight of them, in fact, surpassing his previous high-water mark of 6.1 innings. Koch worked out of jams in three of the first four innings, allowing only single runs in the first and fourth, thus keeping the D-backs in the game. Twice he retired the side in order.

THE BAD

Well, that was fast. Eight pitches into the ballgame and the D-backs trailed 1-0. Turner smoked a 3-2 fastball — clocked at 91mph — just over the left-field fence for a solo home run. It was his fourth homer this season and the seventh time in his career in which he’s led off the game with the long ball. Turner entered 0-for-2 lifetime against Koch.

Runner on third base and less than two outs. In each of the first two innings, the D-backs faced that exact scenario and failed to score. In the first, they had runners on second and third with no outs, while in the second, it was a runner on third with one out. Combined, the D-backs went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts with runners in scoring position.

After striking out the side in the third inning, Scherzer picked up a bat and played offense. He hit a first-pitch fastball for a ground-rule double to plate the go-ahead run, 2-1, with two outs in the fourth. The ball bounced on the warning track and over the right-field fence. It was Scherzer’s sixth hit of the season, the most among Nationals pitchers.

For the first time in five starts this season, Koch surrendered multiple home runs. With one out in the eighth inning, Rendon unloaded on a 2-2 cutter right down the middle of the plate, putting the ball on to the overhang in left-center field. The solo homer made it 3-1. It was Rendon’s third home run of the season and second on the road trip.

With the exception of Ketel Marte, Scherzer struck out every D-backs starter at least once. He got Alex Avila three times and Paul Goldschmidt twice. Goldschmidt took a called third strike in the first and swung and missed on a slider in the third inning. He finished 1-for-4 with a ninth-inning single. Goldschmidt is now 3-for-38 with 14 strikeouts in May.

STAT OF THE GAME

0-for-5: The D-backs went hitless in five at-bats with runners in scoring position; they are 1-for-10 in the series thus far

HE SAID IT

“On a night when he knew and the rest of the team knew how important length was, he jumped out and gave us a great effort. It’s just too bad that he had to absorb the loss,” manager Torey Lovullo said, referring to Koch’s outing.

NOTED

Koch threw a first-pitch strike to 23-of-32 batters that he faced; in addition, he reached a three-ball count a total of three times.

Peralta finished 2-for-4 and he is now batting .364 (8-for-22) with two home runs and three RBI over his last five games.

A.J. Pollock (2-for-12 lifetime against Scherzer) and Steven Souza Jr. (a scheduled day off) were not in the starting lineup.

With a first-pitch temperature of 96 degrees outdoors, the game was played indoors with both the roof and panels closed.

Decimator, a robot from the Cactus High Cobra Commanders First Robotics Team 480, threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

UP NEXT

The debut of Troy Scribner.

The D-backs turn to the 26-year-old right-hander in game three of the four-game series on Saturday, May 12. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning 35 minutes earlier on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

Claimed off waivers in early April, Scribner went 2-1 with a 5.68 ERA in five Triple-A starts in Reno. His big-league resume is a brief one. He appeared in 10 games, including four starts, going 2-1 with a 4.18 ERA with the Angels in 2017.

Scribner will face Stephen Strasburg, who is on a two-start winning streak since losing to the D-backs on April 27.

An All-Star each of the last two seasons, Strasburg (4-3) has beaten Pittsburgh and San Diego here in May. Both appearances saw him pitch seven innings with a combined 16 strikeouts to only two walks.

Strasburg is 4-3 in 10 career starts against the D-backs.

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